Dreamers of our Past
presented by the Sarasota County History Center

 Owen Burns 1869 - 1937

Dream: To move Sarasota from a fishing village to a modern community

Owen Burns changed the face of Sarasota by building seawalls that gave Sarasota the appearance of a resort. Seawalls and fill expanded Cedar Point (which became Golden Gate Point in the 1920's). Burns was instrumental in paving Main Street. In 1911, he founded the Board of Trade, which published a promotional booklet on Sarasota, and established Citizens Bank, the first local bank. 

After Burns came to Sarasota on a fishing trip, in 1910, he moved here. He bought more than seventy-five percent of the city from J. Hamilton Gillespie (in 1910, Gillespie signed a letter agreeing to sell all his holdings for $35,000). At one time Burns owned all of Lido Beach. He founded the Burns Realty Company and the Burns Construction Company. He developed Burns Court and a number of smaller subdivisions in the city of Sarasota.

After John Ringling became involved in Sarasota real estate development, Burns was vice president of John Ringling Estates, Inc. Burns managed the development of the Ringling Isles property on Lido and St. Armands keys. The Burns Realty Company was the sole agent to sell property when Ringling Isles property went on sale. The Burns Construction Company dredged the land and built the Ringling Causeway to connect the Ringling Isles properties and Lido to the mainland.

Burns built the El Vernona Hotel that Dwight James Baum designed. It opened with a grand ball Dec. 31, 1926. When Burns lost the hotel to the Mortgage Company, John Ringling bought it and renamed it the John Ringling Hotel.

After the Great Depression dried up the construction business, Burns was the owner operator of the Tre-Ripe Citrus Products Company on Seventh (now First) Street.

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